For me arriving on Palolem beach was like hearing the announcement that women can vote. Freedom. All of a sudden, my time of feeling insignificant was over. I was finally spoken to, I felt confident walking places on my own, I even bared those shoulders. It was emancipation at its finest.
I understand now how this kind of ecstasy (not the naughty kind) leads to bra burning. It’s not that I didn’t understand the elation of finally getting equality, more that I didn’t understand why the bras had to go? For me a bra is comforting, practical and for the more ample ladies a back-saver. But never before have I felt so liberated to be wearing a bikini.
This liberated feeling led to several days lazing on the beach and a number of 241 cocktails. Still we were experiencing the culture, really we were….
On our third day we decided it was time for an adventure. And by adventure we mean a stroll along the beach. So we turned right, away from the trance music of Palolem, and headed towards Butterfly Island. We could see the island from our shack but assumed it was much further because the boat touts charge about a tenner to get there. After a short walk we realised it was actually much closer than it looked and after crossing a small river, we were actually on it. Maybe there’s more to it around the back? But from what we saw, it wasn’t really worth the boat trip.
But it was well worth the walk.
On the approach to the island there are thousands, maybe even millions, of tiny crabs that dig holes in the sand and hide when you come close. They leave pretty patterns in the sand and seem to be working very hard at something. Tim had a go at some hard-hitting nature documentary making, so I’m sure there will be an upload at some point.
There are very few people at this end of the beach. A couple of westerners keen to explore and, on the weekend/holidays, a few Indian families are all that share this quiet stretch of sand with the crabs.
We celebrated our discovery with a cocktail that night and discussed the possibility of exploring the other end of the beach the next day. Phew, it’s thirsty work being an explorer.
As planned, we set off after breakfast with my explorer hat in tow. We had decided to walk as far as we could along the beach. It didn’t take long for us to be at the rocks at the end of our stretch of sand. And we passed ‘Spice of Life’ on the way, a restaurant advertising extra fast wifi – bonus (I can confirm, the wifi is pretty fast and they also do amazing spring rolls).
Just around the corner is a quiet and secluded patch of sand called Column bay. It’s small but romantic. If we’d known how close it was we’d have stayed there but as it was we were settled in our little hut at Neptune’s Point guesthouse/restaurant on Palolem beachfront.
We decided to stretch our legs further and took a small path towards Patnem. Unfortunately though the beach path soon ended and our explorations were forced inland.
Another kilometre or so further and we arrived at Patnem.
The Lonely Planet described it as less pretty than Palolem, but there isn’t really much of a difference. It’s a gorgeous stretch of sand along the sea front (not quite Thailand pretty, but much nicer than Blackpool) with a few options to stay and a few restaurants, none of which were playing trance.
As culture vultures we decided that, by day five, it was time to really get to grips with the local culture and learn some yoga.
Most tourists in India are talking about yoga and meditation and how spiritual the people are. Apparently it will change your life. Whether you like it or not…
We got up early and headed up the shop lined path from the beach to a place that advertised Yoga. Now we’re not yoga people. We aren’t spiritual, we’re not very good at concentrating (a skill I hear is pretty important with anything that promotes any kind of meditation) and we aren’t bendy.
Another girl arrived just after us, she’d been doing yoga since March and had extended her India trip to study it more. But she called herself a beginner, so we weren’t too worried.
The usual teacher wasn’t there, but a man who may or may not have been expected appeared and offered to teach us. Naturally we accepted… why wouldn’t you accept to be taught yoga by a strange man who doesn’t seem to know whether he should be teaching us or not?!
I don’t think he’d taught before, but he said he planned to start teaching at Neptune’s Point on the beach. So if they have yoga classes there now and there is a young guy teaching, it’s probably him. I can confirm he is a perfectly respectable teacher. He wanted to keep things easy for me and Tim, but the other girl said he should push us. We of course agreed because easy is too boring right?
We couldn’t do it. And we spent a good few exercises sitting on our bottoms, jaws on the floor gaping at the other two and their inhuman positioning.
The version of yoga we did was ashtanga. It’s a kind of fitness yoga, which seems to be much closer to pilates (torture). By the end of the two-hour session, we were sweaty and hot and concerned about our lack of bendiness. Is it normal to be able to lift your leg over your head whilst standing on the other leg and bending your arm around you, like you’ve got a split personality and the other half of you is a boa constrictor?
I can’t say it’s changed my life. I can’t say it’s any different to learning yoga in another country (mainly because I haven’t learnt it before). But we enjoyed it all the same – even if we did wish it was a bit shorter, damned attention span.
We took our new found spirituality (hunger) to Cafe Inn for breakfast – a massive bowl of mixed fruit and yoghurt (they also do amazing salads).
Obviously after such a strenuous morning, we needed to relax. To the beach where we can laze around and drink 241 cocktails, shortly followed by another seafood barbecue (amazing wherever you go).
Phew, it really is hard work being an avid explorer/culture vulture.